This week was the latest in the Brite Green Global Policy Seminars series at the University of Oxford. The seminar, run in conjunction with The Institute of Human Sciences, OXPEACE and the African Studies Centre, was entitled “Environmental Conflict and its resolutions” has three excellent speakers: Karen Witsenburg, Harry Verhoeren and Andrew Loveridge.
The seminar looked to explore the relationship between humans and their environment and the impact of conflict. Karen’s talk focussed on Ethnic violence, water scarcity and managing resources to promote peace and demonstrated the counter-intuitive relationship between ethnic violence and water scarcity. Her research showed that where water was scarce, violence decreased and various tribes and factions worked together to manage their resources. Only when the rains came did livestock raids start, leading to violence, injury and deaths.
Harry’s presentation continued the exploration with a detailed analysis of the conflict in Darfur, put forward by many as a true resource conflict. His research suggest that current Liberal and Neo-Malthusian accounts on environmental development conflict misdiagnose the problem and offer problematic solutions. He suggest that rather than the climate change narrative being helpful, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the conflict in Darfur. He suggests that local and national politics are more to blame, and discussed how the development narrative has been used as an excuse for political power grabbing.
Andrew looked at conflict between lions and people in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and outlined the nature of the relationship from over a decade of research in the area. Andrew outlined the biological and geographical conditions that lead to conflict and the nature of it, with lions killing livestock, and people snaring and poisoning lions. His talk explored the need for expectation management and how local involvement and ownership is needed to avoid a mutually destructive relationship.
The speakers’ slides are available on our website